Hearst Castle is a National Historic Landmark and California Historical Landmark mansion located on the Central Coast of California, United States(approximately 250 miles (400 km) from both Los Angeles and San Francisco). It was designed by architect Julia Morgan, between 1919 and 1947, as a residence for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, who died in 1951. In 1954 it became a California State Park. The site was opened to visitors in 1958. Since that time it has been operated as the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument where the estate, and its considerable collection of art and antiques, is open for public tours. The estate itself is five miles (eight kilometers) inland atop a hill of the Santa Lucia Range at an altitude of 1,600 feet (490 m).
Hearst Castle features 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a movie theater, an airfield, and the world’s largest private zoo(total 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways). (courtesy: Wikipedia).
In Dec, 2014 we were on road trip from San Jose to Los Angeles and we decided to visit the Hearst Castle while coming back to home. It is a scenic drive on Highway 1. We made a reservation for a night near San Simeon beach so we could go to the beach and then drive to the castle before our scheduled tour.
Once we reach to theproperty there is a Visitor Center, where we can buy tickets unless you’ve already purchased them online. There is usually some time from the time you purchase your ticket until shuttle leaves with your tour group to the top of the hill to view the main estate. Occasionally you can see some exotic animals on the estate grounds, if you’re lucky enough to see them (zebras and gazelles) on the way up. Then you receive a guided tour of your part of the castle. We did purchase our ticket online in advance because the tour sell out quickly.
They also offer a movie “Hearst Castle – Building the Dream” a 40-minute movie which is screened every 45 minutes. The movie is combined with the vintage clips and some stills from 1920s and 30s allows the construction and history of the Castle to come to life which is very informative and interesting. There is a gift shop, a snack shop and a restaurant at the visitors center. There are 6-8 different tours to choose from(some are only available in Spring and Fall) which last about 1 hours- 2 hours and you have to pay separately for each tour. Afterwards you’re allowed to walk around the outside of the castle grounds.
We took the Upstairs Suites tour which ascend Hearst Castle’s winding staircases to explore it’s most personal rooms, including guest accommodations and W. R. Hearst’s own private quarters known as ‘Gothic Suite’. The tour includes Doge’s Suite, The Main Library, The Gothic Suite, Duplex Bedrooms, Celestial Suite, Gardens, Neptune Pool and Roman Pool.
The whole tour consists of approximately 332 stairs, both up and down, and a 3/4-mile route to walk. They have Accessibly Designed Tours for those who have difficulty walking or standing for lengths of time. During the tour we were able to see how Hearst admired his travel to Europe, art and history. I did love his remarkable paintings, tapestries, sculptures, antiquities and furniture. Some of the ceilings are hand painted which is just amazing. Touching antiques and other things are not allowed, tour guide do make sure that no one touches anything.
Two Sekhmet Figures and Two Sekhmet Heads
William Randolph Hearst was a moderate drinker but was a passionate connoisseur of fine wine, serving nothing but the best for his famous guests. He had the underground wine cellar to where he kept his impressive collection of wine and spirits—even during the prohibition era.
I will be sharing each part of tour separately in new post to make it easy to read as I have lot’s of pictures.